FOUR MONTHS after north India got its first qualifier for the Race Across America (RAAM) cycling event and Chandigarh was approved by RAAM officials as the venue for the qualifying event, Shivalik Signature, Chandigarh Municipal Corporation’s decision to charge commercial rates for the event has led to it being shifted to nearby New Chandigarh.
Shivalik Siganture, a 615-km-long cycling race, is one of the three qualifying races in India for RAAM. The qualifiers are held in 15 countries across the globe. The one in New Chandigarh will be held on April 7.
“We just needed an entry gate for the start of the event on April 7 and for its end on April 8. This race does not require restrictions on traffic movement unlike marathons. For more than one week, we went from one official to another at Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. Initially, the Commissioner told us that they would offer us 50 per cent discount but later the officials made an estimate of more than Rs 45,000, apart from adding that every extra banner will be charged, even though banners of non-recognised marathons and other events are allowed for display for more than a week,” said Abhishek Kashyap, whose wife Saran Preeti is the race director and got the rights for the event for the next 10 years.
MC Commissioner Jitender Yadav, who also heads Chandigarh Tourism, said the organisers approached him for the event and he offered them discount. “We offered them 50 per cent discount on commercial rates for display of banners and gate. We will be more than happy to host such an event. The Municipal Corporation has different terms and conditions for every event and every private organisation needs to pay the necessary charges,” said Yadav.
While Chandigarh has seen the rise of marathons and walkathons apart from cycling events in the last two years, the RAAM qualifier was the first international cycling event to come to Chandigarh. So far, Pune and Goa have hosted the qualifiers for RAAM, which is a 4,828 km coast-to-coast race across the US.
This weekend will see a non-Athletics Federation of India-approved marathon apart from Chandigarh Cyclothon to be organised by a Delhi-based private company, Showbiz India Limited, next month in association with Chandigarh Tourism. But the city has missed the ride for Shivalik Signature.
“We got the rights for the RAAM qualifier in November last year and thought of Chandigarh as a starting city as the city is known for cycling and its architecture. It was for the first time that an international cycling event was to be held in Chandigarh. Chandigarh Tourism and CITCO gave us all the permission. We submitted our proposal to the Municipal Corporation on February 22 and after much delay, when we met Jitender Yadav, MC Commissioner, he told us, ‘Did we tell you to start the event in Chandigarh?’”
Amit Samarth, who became the second-ever Indian to complete RAAM last year, believes that lack of support in India hinders such events. “In USA, many cities take pride in hosting such events and permissions are granted and every support is given. RAAM is 30 per cent longer than Tour De France. Even in Tour De France, cities bid to host a single stage. Most of us know Chandigarh as a cycling city and it would have been great if Chandigarh was on the RAAM qualifier hosting map,” said Samarth from Nagpur.